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We have a brash Australian media mogul to thank for coloured clothing in cricket and it wasn’t Rupert Murdoch.
The notion of breakaway cricket competitions barely raises an eyebrow now but the World Series Cricket (WSC) between 1977 and 1979 was less evolution, more revolution.
Kerry Packer designed a bold, alternative template for the game to be broadcast on his own television platform, Nine Network, after the Australian Cricket Board (ABC) refused to grant him exclusive TV rights to Test cricket.
Packer persuaded many of the best cricketers from around the world to sign up, despite the risk of an international ban, and paid them handsomely.
For better or worse, much of the commonplace in limited overs cricket you see today can be traced back to The World Series: cricket helmets, day-night games, drinks carts driving on at intervals, white balls and coloured clothing.
The three principal teams of WSC Australia, WSC West Indies and WSC World XI locked horns decked out in yellow, pink and blue – but it wasn’t until 1992 that coloured kit made its way into an ICC World Cup.
The Benson & Hedges 1992 World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand, included nine teams and was won by Pakistan.
All the kit in this landmark year included a blue, green, red and white rainbow across the shoulders and had the country slapped in bold across the chest.
England decked out in baby blue
England’s shade of choice was a fetching powder blue and Graham Gooch looked almost as incongruous as the West Indian quicks, previously dressed in pink for Kerry Packer.
By 1996, England were inching towards a darker, more mainstream blue but their performances were as drab as could be.
In qualifying, they finished just above debutants United Arab Emirates in group B before being taught a lesson by eventual winners, Sri Lanka.
The nadir of England’s involvement in any World Cup probably came in 1999 when they hosted the tournament but failed to qualify from Group A – inched out on run rate by India and Zimbabwe.
A day after their limp exit, the official World Cup song, ‘All Over the World’ by Dave Stewart came out as if to emphasise a premature departure.
The tentative transformation of design in England’s one-day clothing (the rainbow bit the dust but red and white stripes cropped up) seemed to mirror how they played.
Everyone else was innovating in how they approached this format; prompted by how Sri Lanka set off like a train in the early overs; but England were still conservative and still in that shade of blue.
Fast forward four years and the first ICC World Cup to take place in Africa – jointly hosted by South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe – featured fourteen teams and 54 matches.
The preface to the tournament in 2003 saw Indian players grumbling over sponsorship and the political situation in Zimbabwe raise concerns over whether to play there.
It was a World Cup of peaks and troughs with Australia rampaging to numerous records – not least 359-2 in the final against India, who lost by a whopping 125 runs in Johannesburg.
The minnows copped flak for being heavily beaten (Canada were all out for 36) but Kenya caught the attention with a plucky run that saw them make the semi-finals.
But some things, notably England’s form at major tournaments, stayed depressingly predictable.
The official mascot was a funky zebra called Dazzle; what England would have done for a bit of spark.
In a near-carbon copy of the previous World Cup, they bowed out at the earliest possible stage, failing to displace Zimbabwe for a spot in the knockout stages.
In 2003, England’s shirt was a bit ‘meh’ (a horrible guttural noise/phrase but no less appropriate here).
Fashion-wise, we had what we can perhaps now term ‘England World Cup blue’ – with red collar and thin white stripes in red panels lending a certain toothpaste quality.
In 2007, the World Cup was hosted in the West Indies and England were in Group C with New Zealand, Canada and Kenya.
The sixteen teams comprised four groups leading to a Super 8 stage – a dire idea of a round-robin, quarter-final stage.
You’ll notice there’s a fair amount of apathy and criticism bubbling away for England but they wholly deserve it.
A World Cup is a finite; unique opportunity to win cricket’s greatest, limited-overs prize and play a brand of cricket that marks you out.
Down the years, England have consistently been underwhelming; squeaking into the 2007 ICC World Cup Super Eights by virtue of just finishing above Kenya but going no further.
Michael Vaughan captained the likes of Plunkett, Joyce, Nixon and Pietersen and they proudly wore their standard England blue with the merest nudge to red and white as trim on the collar.
Along with Vaughan, Collingwood and Flintoff, Strauss was one of England’s most experienced ODI performers in 2007 – another example of England backing their Test players to play all formats.
I distinctly remember being as excited at seeing Bermuda at a World Cup as England and who remembers this Dwayne Leverock’s athletic slip catch?!
The 2007 World Cup saw Ireland make their debut at the tournament and famously beat Pakistan.
It wasn’t meant to happen but that’s the magic of the World Cup; rarer in cricket than football but welcome when it makes a mockery of form, experience or star quality.
In 2011, the tenth cricket World Cup was hosted by India, Bangladesh and Pakistan although the latter, due to security issues, saw its matches moved to Sri Lanka.
England qualified in third place from group B; their six-run win over South Africa in Chennai showing they could occasionally prove the critics wrong.
Keen to continue the trend of keeping everyone guessing, England then lost to Bangladesh in Chittagong – but their 18-run victory over the West Indies back in Chennai saw them qualify.
Don’t get me wrong, I want England to win a cricket World Cup and I begin each tournament (perhaps like you) quietly hoping that they will show how wrong we are to doubt them.
But I’d settle for going out in style. By that I mean trying to hit the cover off the ball; being audacious, reckless and cunning.
I want England’s one-day team to be cheeky, disrespectful and well, memorable.
They literally can’t do much worse than they have in previous World Cups so the notion of pressure absolutely doesn’t apply.
England’s squad for the 2011 tournament read:
Strauss (capt), Bell, Morgan, Pietersen, Trott, Bresnan, Collingwood, Wright, Yardy, Prior, Anderson, Broad, Shahzad, Swann, Tredwell.
It had all bases broadly covered but where were the wildcards?
If we cast out minds back, England went through a stage of Test match selection in the nineties where they picked their bowlers based on conditions.
In 1992, Somerset fast-medium master of swing, Neil Mallender, was plucked from county cricket to do his magic on a Headingley track expected to offer assistance.
The thirty-year-old from Kirk Sandall in South Yorkshire bagged eight wickets on debut then was subsequently ditched for the tour to India.
It showed England could think short-term and be brutal but they were strangely reluctant to be as surgical with their squads when it came to World Cups, preferring brush strokes.
It was 26 March, 2011 in Colombo when England last played a World Cup fixture.
Their shortcomings were given a very public airing when they lost by ten wickets in the quarter-final at the R Premadasa stadium.
England’s openers of Bell and Strauss scored 29 in eight overs – a very respectable English run rate – but England’s 229-6 was blitzed by Dilshan and Tharanga.
So, we’re on the precipice of the 2015 ICC World Cup.
Some sense has finally prevailed in Eoin Morgan’s captaincy but they remain outsiders at best.
The top four make the knockouts and Pool A sees England have to circumnavigate Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Scotland.
They should have enough quality to see off Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Scotland but on a bad day, could lose to anyone so nicking a game off one of the stronger contenders would create breathing space.
No Valentines card from Mitchell
Australia will greet England in their opening group game on Valentine’s Day in Melbourne with no romanticism whatsoever.
Expect Mitchell Johnson to deliver chin music and snarls and England will be made to feel like they’ve stumbled into another Bodyline series.
If, somehow, they come away with a win against a pumped-up Australia keen to win on home soil then they’ll have delivered an early – and welcome – World Cup shock.
If they want to search around for any recent sporting lessons, Morgan’s men need look no further than England’s astute 16-21 win in the opening game of rugby union’s Six Nations.
It’s more likely their progress will begin to bed in – or unravel – as the group matches schedule chunters along in February.
Now, after much moaning and cynicism at England’s World Cup history, here’s an effort at glass-half-full, you-never-know, on-a-good-day optimism.
England’s squad is pretty good, which is as close to a compliment as I can pay it:
Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler (wk), Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Eoin Morgan (capt), Joe Root, James Taylor, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes.
They don’t possess a world-class spinner – which seems rude to James Tredwell who thoroughly deserves his place – but there is no mysterious doosra merchant ready to cause trouble.
England will aim to share out spin duties and hope Moeen Ali’s rapid rise continues. Adil Rashid really should have been picked and it leaves England looking one-dimensional.
Starting an innings with a bang suggests Alex Hales is worth a punt but the recent Tri-Series selection gave Ian Bell a boost and Moeen Ali a cause to worry about his batting form.
England need to learn to finish off opponents when they are lurching and keep it tighter in the last overs of a match.
There is no obvious go-to death bowler who can mix it up and pepper the blockhole like Lasith Malinga but plenty of originality with the batting from Buttler, Hales, Root, Taylor and Morgan.
England have what it takes to surprise and delight at this World Cup.
That’s not an easy thing to write but this could be where the likes of James Taylor and Moeen Ali make a name for themselves.
Hopefully in the right context.
World Cup format and future
The format and who plays in cricket World Cups is what should be one of its defining traits.
It might not provide value for TV broadcasters but fans want to see upsets, teams they don’t ordinarily see – so what that there are one-sided matches?
England and India have both been on the end of some mighty thrashings over the past year but naturally, that doesn’t count.
Unfortunately, entertainment from the fans’ perspective doesn’t tally with commercial value for money.
India going home early is a disaster for those who’ve paid a fortune for TV rights around the world.
It’s a sad state of affairs but the cricket World Cup is in real danger of being a closed shop with only a token nod to affiliate or associate cricket-playing nations.
England will host the next World Cup in 2019 but it is an absolute disgrace that the tournament will feature only ten teams, down from 14 teams in 2011 and 2015.
Cricket TV rights for the UK remains muddled
There continues to be a real problem over TV rights too and it’s never more prevalent than at a World Cup.
That UK TV coverage of a World Cup is limited to token free-to-air highlights and having to pay to watch live matches is just plain wrong.
At the eleventh hour, ITV have (barring last-minute hiccups) won rights to broadcast highlights of the 2015 ICC World Cup; not that you’d know it as it will only be revealed less than a week before the first match.
Seriously. You’d like to think that YouTube is a ready-made platform. Offer near-live action, a delayed feed.
Open it up to as many cricket fans as possible, not just those with the money to spare for Sky subscriptions or willing to watch a game nearly a day after it happened.
The problem is that these rights, both on television and internet, have been sold off.
You can watch snippets of near-live action from England’s Test cricket via a Times subscription as the newspaper group paid the ECB for the ability to show bite-sized, packaged action online.
Given the Australian and New Zealand time zones, highlights of sport much later don’t work after they’ve already been written about in the press and analysed on social media.
The fact that ITV is showing short, cricket highlights, probably at a late-evening graveyard time, punctuated with ads, well, as you might imagine, I am hugely grateful as a cricket fan.
WIN ENGLAND’S 2015 ODI SHIRT
Enough of the speeches and tubthumping. Let’s end on a fashion positive.
On the matter of replica shirts, finally, there is a World Cup-related England victory to talk about…
England will look the part with the release of what is their most stylish World Cup shirt ever. (With possible exception of their 2011 shirt: like a darker blue).
The 2015 England ODI shirt, out in time for the global fifty-over tussle, is a nod to previous design but Adidas have come up with a stylish makeover.
There is a name now for England’s World Cup blue, collegiate royal apparently, but the shirt has an English lion motif in black splashed across the chest.
The adidas stripes across the shoulders work in a way that 1992 world cup rainbow design never did and the font for ENGLAND across the front is elegant.
Thanks to Barrington Sports, Cricket Yorkshire is delighted to offer England’s new 2015 ODI shirt as a competition prize. (Large only).
HOW TO ENTER:
Email us with your name before Wednesday 11 February at 6pm …best of luck to you and to England!
If you don’t manage to win this time, Barrington Sports now offer the full range of England ODI replica and training kit (with bold flashes of orange in places)
* As a condition of the competition: all entrants are added to the Cricket Yorkshire mailing list; this tends to centre around a newsletter relating to articles and interviews twice a month.*